Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Verbal Communication: More Than the Written Word Spoken Aloud

Filed under: Living with a disability — by at 1:59 am on Thursday, June 25, 2009

Glenda Watson Hyatt presenting at SOBCon 09: Biz School for Bloggers
(Photo credit: Becky McCray)

Using technology and the voice of “Kate” to give several presentations in recent months, I have become acutely aware of the differences between verbal and written forms of communication.

Verbal communication is not simply text converted to speech. Verbal communication, for the most part, is less structured and more fluid. It is not always complete sentences; it is definitely not paragraphs.

Verbal communication requires thinking, rationalizing and forming an opinion in the moment. Unless it is a prepared speech, there is no luxury of a draft and revision after further thought, as is the case with writing. Verbal communication is synchronous, without a delay between the time when the message is sent and the time when it is received.

Verbal communication takes self-confidence. Do these words I am about to utter fit with what the others are talking about? Is my point valid within the context of this conversation? Self-confidence varies across situations. A confident writer may not be a confident speaker. That confidence is built up over time with an accumulation of successes and failures. And, with that self-confidence comes verbal communication skills, learned over time and built upon previous lessons learned.

Adding a communication device to the mix may make verbal communication possible in that the message is spoken aloud. But, from what I have experienced so far on this journey, using such a device (in whatever form) is not quite the same as verbal communication. In my case, using the technology that I do, it is closer to written communication converted to text with some tweaks.

Learning how to use this technology within the verbal realm has required being a quick study to appear on par with my peers. Behind the scenes, it has been difficult to know how to fit one form of communication into another. 

I wonder, when young people with speech disabilities are given communication devices and taught how to use the device, are they also taught how to communicate with the device?  The way I see it, there are two sets of skills here: the technical and the social. Both are required, but might be acquired at different speeds. 

It has definitely been an interesting journey; one that I am still navigating.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, tips or insights.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Comment by Eileen Foster

June 25, 2009 @ 3:51 am

Great insight. Great post!

It’s a bit different, being on the receptive end of conversation, but Hearing Aids/Cochlear Implants are similar.

If you have an assistive device, the hearing professionals that guide you believe it is all you need. It will bridge the gap between your hearing loss and “normal hearing.”

There is so much more to hearing. I don’t know this for sure, because I don’t have perfect hearing, but seems to be regular hearing can modulate sound far more efficiently than an analog or digital device.

I also notice that there are auditory cues in conversation that foster communication. Like, an intake of breath as one prepares to speak. This keeps folks from talking over one another…if you can’t hear it. As one who can’t, I tend to break that convention of courteous speech. Frequently.

On the other hand, being Deaf/HOH I’ve relied on visual communication cues all my life. I was really interested to learn a few years ago that there is a word for something I’ve been watching all my life: “micro-expressions.” (

There are so many layers to communication, I’m fascinated by it.

Cheers to you for pushing the bounds of “Kate.”

Comment by Cheryl

June 25, 2009 @ 6:42 am

I’d check out Rob would probably have some interesting insights on the subject.

Comment by Glenda

June 26, 2009 @ 9:51 pm


Thanks for sharing Rob’s blog. I had stumbled across his blog once before and the one post I read stuck in my mind, but I hadn’t retraced my steps to find it again. He is an amazing Dad. I’d love to read his book.

Comment by Glenda

June 26, 2009 @ 9:55 pm

Thanks Eileen! Its time “we” start teaching the professionals. Communication, in any form, is more complex than it appears.

Comment by Cheryl

June 27, 2009 @ 4:45 am

I read Rob’s book about 2 months ago and then started reading his blog. It was amazingly placed in a prominent place in my school library. Saw it and went OMG! And it is an OMG book. I HIGHLY reccomend it. I love the way he writes. The way he mixes brutal honestly & humor in just the right fashion. I can’t get enough of his stuff.

Comment by Kati

May 12, 2010 @ 1:26 am

I was given a Lightwriter Sl40 last year and no lessons on how to communicate with AAC device, it has my medical info on and is is used in situations with people who don’t know and can’t understand me.

I mainly use it for pre-stored sentences asking for things, telling people things OT etc when asking how you going on or anything having difficulty with so have to predict possible sentences before appointment, type out reply to replay later otherwise it takes ages cos I still want to be able to speak as quickly and efficiently as everyone else.

I don’t use with family they can work out from few sounds/words combined with signs/gestures, makes it easier for me as typing is also getting more difficult from Ataxia (started in my 30’s).

When I make sentences on Lightwriter they always grammatically correct like typed ones with punctuation in right place etc, as I don’t want people to think I’m bit slow or something if they only getting one word at once. (I already get some people talk to me like a child!)

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